Soulwalking from Tokyo to Richmond

Airbnb can open up experiences across the globe, and so we were delighted that Rie Kimoto found Soulwalk and graced us with her curious mind. Just a week in London, and here she was, Soulwalking around Richmond immersing herself in the nature and asking questions about life in this part of the world.

She kindly wrote about her experience which she shared on her social media, and we asked if we could capture this for others to read, as it brings a very different perspective to life.

By Rie Kimoto

Yesterday, marking my first week in the UK, I spent the day walking through Richmond Park with Carmen, the founder of the London-based wellbeing community Soulhub. This park, once a deer hunting ground created by King Charles I, still hosts deer today. Carmen’s story of her three-month boat journey from Australia to China was extraordinary. When I asked why she embarked on such an adventure, she simply smiled and said, “Life should be an adventure.”

When I shared how the intense brightness and warmth of the sun in Barcelona once made me feel sad, she agreed. “Like waking up on a winter morning, opening the window, feeling the day’s chill, and pondering over wearing layers or needing gloves. I love those moments of a very cold English winter.” The profile of her face, talking about the necessity of uncomfortable in life, was truly beautiful.

After walking for a while, we sat on a fallen tree. “Let’s spend five minutes in silence. What do you want to feel?” “Hmm, sounds.” In the next moment, I realized the multiple layers of bird chirping that had been there all along, something I hadn’t noticed before due to focusing so much on understanding English. It was also apparent how the noise of airplanes was much louder in comparison. The wind caressed my cheeks.

“I sometimes come here alone at night to watch the stars,” she said. Watching the stars, she’s reminded of how insignificantly small she is in this world, akin to an ant. In the pitch-black park, looking at the stars makes her realize how trivial her worries are. Unlike Japanese parks with evenly spaced streetlights brightening the night sky, there are none here.

As we resumed walking, we bumped into a friend of hers. “She just arrived here a week ago,” Carmen introduced me. The man, with his twinkling blue eyes, warmly said, “That’s wonderful. London has many lovely places, just like here.” Since arriving in London, the word I hear most often is “Lovely.” In restaurants, after placing an order, the staff would often say a single word, “Lovely.” It’s a highly versatile adjective that encompasses a wide range of positive meanings, including good, nice, thank you, sure, and delicious, and it’s used extensively throughout the city. Richmond, as he says, is indeed a lovely place in my opinion too, but having lived here for only a week, my sense of “lovely” is still somewhat disjointed and probably doesn’t quite match their nuances yet. I wonder if I will have grasped the nuances of this word a year from now.

The more I try to force a good story out, the farther the answer seems to get. But when w I simply take an interest in the person right in front of me and chat away, that’s when I often hear the most fascinating stories. Last night, while drinking wine with a friend who lives in London, we talked about this, and he shared with me the words of D. H. Lawrence: “Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me! (It was the wind passing through me that wrote it, not I.)” . Letting go of egoism and self-interest to truly listen to others is undeniably challenging. Yet, I sometimes feel that all it takes is a gentle reminder with every breeze that passes by. Nevertheless, I also believe that ultimately, we cannot entirely strip away our sense of self.

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